After a five-year break, dancers are set to return to the rock faces of Vedauwoo this weekend.
“Dancing Between Earth and Sky: Vertical Dance at Vedauwoo,” a presentation of the University of Wyoming Department of Theatre and Dance, is scheduled for 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. Sunday at the Vedauwoo Recreation Area east of Laramie. Tickets are $8 in advance or $10 at on-site.
As the name suggests, vertical dance takes place on a vertical plane instead of a horizontal one. Dancers wear harnesses and are suspended by ropes, allowing them to move across sheer rock walls and into the air. They also move in the free space away from the walls.
“They’re filling the space with their movement,” said Margaret Wilson, a UW professor of dance.
Wilson is directing the production together with Neil Humphrey, a UW professor of geology. The pair first directed vertical dance at Vedauwoo in 1998, with the most recent performance taking place in 2013. In the last 20 years, Wilson said, UW dancers have developed a series of signature moves while continuing to explore movement in new ways.
“We’ve tried to develop our vocabulary and expand the way we think about choreographing and giving the students challenges,” she said.
For example, she choreographed a piece on the ground for students to learn, and then challenged them to move the dance into vertical space.
“That expands my movement vocabulary as a choreographer, but also helps them develop proficiency as performers,” she said.
In “Dancing Between Earth and Sky,” 11 UW dancers will be joined by guest artists Kate Lawrence and Simon Edwards from Vertical Dance Kate Lawrence in Wales, as well as UW graduate Maliina Jensen, who is practicing vertical dance in Nuuk, Greenland.
The performance was inspired by the natural elements of Vedauwoo, with the score including compositions by Sean Stone, who teaches musical theater at UW, and Lisa Rickard, a member of Lights Along the Shore, an instrumental trio that is accompanying the production.
“The dancers have loved being outside and having trees and rocks and scenery to look at. It’s really inspired their dancing,” Wilson said.
Wilson said the eclectic score incorporates a range of sounds and styles.
“Our goal is for the audience to appreciate in an artistic way the wind, the water, the rocks, the clouds,” she said.
Student dancers at UW must take a vertical dance class before they can perform. Many dancers have also taken an advanced course. During the past several years, UW vertical dancers have performed in a variety of indoor and outdoor spaces, including the Physical Sciences Building and the Berry Biodiversity Conservation Center on campus. The Vedauwoo Recreation Area, which is part of the Pole Mountain Unit of the Medicine Bow National Forest, sits about 16 miles east of Laramie just off Interstate 80.
Seating is limited by the terrain, and audience members are encouraged to purchase tickets in advance at the Buchanan Center for the Performing Arts box office, by calling 766-6666 or at www.uwyo.edu/finearts. Also because of limited space, tickets are required for dogs.
Audience members should plan to leave Laramie at least an hour before the performance time, Wilson said, to ensure enough time to reach the venue.
The performance will take place in the box canyon near the day-use area, but parking will be available along the paved road outside the entrance. Buses will transport audience members to a drop-off point from which they will walk about 10 minutes up a gravel path to the performance area. Ushers will be posted along the path to guide the way. The last bus will leave 15 minutes before the start, and carpooling is encouraged.
The seating area is first-come, first-served and mainly on the ground with little or no shade. Sunscreen, water and a blanket for sitting on are recommended. Performances are scheduled for the morning hours to avoid volatile afternoon weather.